Earth Repair Corps will be publishing a series of interviews with Permaculture Design Course graduates who have used the education & resources they gained from the course to further their careers in the world of sustainability.
Our hope is to convey what a life-changing opportunity the Permaculture Design Course can be, while learning more about what first attracted these former students to sustainable design and how they have applied those principles since taking a PDC.
Paul Oveisi, owner of Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden in South Austin, helps us kick off this series. Read more below.
1) How did you become interested in sustainable design? Please describe to us any moments in your life that piqued your interest in sustainable, regenerative, and holistic systems.
My interest was an evolution that likely happened over the course of my entire life but I can think of a few ”tipping point’ moments that led me to take sustainable design more seriously as a way of life. The first was an impromptu, almost accidental, visit to the Earthship Community near Taos, NM. I was awestruck that these experimental, sustainable, whole-system homes could be both so strikingly beautiful and functional. There was connection between design, science, and artful creativity that struck a chord with me that stuck with me for years. Years later, having left my lifelong home of Austin, TX to live in New York City, I couldn’t let go of what became an obsession. I read every book by Michael Reynolds which led me to other forms of sustainable architecture which led me to sustainable agriculture. I stumbled on some old videos of Geoff Lawton and Bill Mollison and spent several years reading everything I could on permaculture, regenerative agriculture, and related fields. Working in hospitality I found a little community of like-minded chefs and farmers who were implementing some of these strategies. Moving back to Austin, I decided to drop everything, get my PDC and work on a plan to incorporate sustainable design into a new way of life.
2) What were you looking to learn when you signed up for a Permaculture Design Course?
Honestly, everything and anything. Having read dozens of books on the subject I wanted to get some hands on experience and meet like-minded folks. I was also hoping to find some work outside the PDC to further hone my skills and expand my knowledge.
All Images © Woody Welch 2018
3) Who taught your Permaculture Design Course and when? What did you appreciate about that course, and what would you have like to have learned more about?
My course was taught by Kirby Fry and Caroline Riley in the Fall of 2015. I thought it was a well-designed course, by dynamic and well-rounded instructors who were extremely knowledgeable and engaging. I would have liked a bit more information on the architectural components but that’s splitting hairs – it was a fantastic course.
4) What other courses, if any, have you participated in that have helped you to learn more about and implement sustainable design systems?
I’ve taken a Grow Green course by the City of Austin which was informative. Notably, I enjoyed input from a meteorologist from LCRA and fire-wise design from a Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center representative. Informally, I’ve found particular interest in soil microbiology and have watched countless hours of advanced composting techniques and soil microbiology analysis – most notably by Karl Hammer and Dr. Elaine Ingham, respectively.
5) Have you been able to apply what you learned from the Permaculture Design Course to your life and business endeavors? If so, please elaborate.
A resounding yes. After my PDC I spent a couple of years working in the field doing various landscaping and design related projects for both landscaping companies and non-profits. The knowledge I obtained from my PDC and beyond very much informed my decision to combine my experience in hospitality to create a permaculture inspired business model – but I wanted to spend some time getting my hands dirty first.
6) Have you had the opportunity to teach, mentor, and/or pass on information about sustainable design to friends, family, or employees?
Yes, too many to count. We do a formal training/walk-through of all employees of my organization on basic permaculture principles and I’ve had countless conversations turning many people onto the discipline – whether sharing books by Holmgren, Shephard or Fukuoka, or sharing Geoff Lawton videos. Again, too many to count.
Thank you so much for your involvement and initiative.
It is my pleasure.